The Death Valley dance.
I only named it that in the hindsight of all that happened in the next months.
All I knew on that February day in 2013 was that this was a moment to remember, as Chuck and I remembered so many of our times together. We knew what was important in life. We’d always, in our 24 years together, grasped that life was impermanent and it needed to be grabbed and appreciated and loved and marked in that spot in our hearts that remembered such moments.
Nothing but wide-open road in front of us, there in Death Valley. We’d had this place on our bucket list forever, and we’d finally made it. This was our last evening here. Our day had been spent mostly driving through the various canyons because Chuck wasn’t feeling well-his strength was minimal and he was in pain. We thought it was the die-off from a fungal infection. We thought it was a pinched nerve. So we moved more slowly that day, and I took the wheel.
But, as I steered the car over the road, headed back to the ranch, looking at the changing colors of the rocks around me, I knew that here was a moment that we needed to imprint upon our hearts. Something in my heart told me to mark this memory into my bones, so I maneuvered the car to the dirt on the side of the road and said Let’s dance. We loved to slow dance, and Chuck was a master at it. Today, he wasn’t as sure of his footing on the rutted dirt of the roadside, but I said let’s try, and he gamely smiled at me and stepped out of the car.
It was that most beautiful part of the evening that the Scots call the gloaming… when the day is done but right before night sets in, and it was quiet, with no traffic as far as the eyes could see and the ears could hear. It seemed as if we were the only humans on the planet at that moment, and the rocks glowed golden from the dying sun’s last breath. Silence surrounded us as I met him in front of our red Ford Escape and the strains of You’re My Inspiration by Chicago, wafted from the IPOD I’d plugged into the radio. Chuck put his right arm around me and clasped my right hand in his left, wrapping his fingers lightly around mine. In spite of everything, his body was strong against me and that strength flowed from him to me and back again, and all the Love in the world between us simmered and shone.
I knew something was wrong with him. He did too. Maybe we both wondered if his cancer had returned, but were afraid to voice the thought aloud. I don’t know. I just know, at that moment in time, with that particular tune playing, my heart called for me to remember this moment.
Our feet moved slowly to the music…back and forth. A step here, a step there. I soaked in that moment in time. I suspect that Chuck did too. Cancer had already visited us once. Something was so clearly wrong with him again, and we knew that every breath between us, every bit of Love between us, counted, more than ever.
Our feet moved gracefully between the ruts on the side of the road, in the setting sun, in the gloaming of a quiet evening.
Oblivious to all but each other, Chuck and I danced our last dance, in the beauty of Death Valley.
And Love moved with us~